Tuesday, October 25, 2016

TMST: This post is EPIC!

Have you ever wished you had a library of digital books that was customized to the interests of each learner from your class? What if those books were not only digital, but included read to me and audiobooks as well?

Well, my friends, meet Epic!

No, Epic! is not some brand new, shiny digital tool that will transform your entire classroom world with one click or tap.  One app rarely can.  In case you missed my earlier posts, learning is not about the tool.  

But Epic! is an app that provides an online digital library that is customized to learner interest.  It won't solve every problem you ever had, but it can be a great resource in your toolbelt to promote reading and provide learners with different reading choices.

It isn't new, but it has purpose.  

For the learner who's read everything in your classroom library.  For the time you wish the library had just a few more weather books.  For the reader that just isn't feeling motivated to read unless it means they get to read about what they are passionate about. For the learner who struggles to read but could listen to reading.

Epic is free for educators. Simply set up an account, set the age of your kids, and then create a profile for each of your learners. With a tap, they will get to select books that THEY want to read or have read to them.  

Fostering a love of reading is not just about technology, but when the two meet, amazing things can happen.

And that, to me, is pretty Epic!

What tool is not new to you, but serves a meaningful purpose worth mentioning?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

TMST: My Recap of RecapThat

Once upon a time it was summer.  I enjoyed long days of relaxing by the pool. I stayed up late and binge-watched a ton of Netflix. Back in those lazy days, I excitedly saved a ton of things from my Twitter feed, thinking I had plenty of time to explore and tell our educators all about them later.  

And then, well, the school year happened.

As I slowly dig myself out from under the first quarter of the school year, I did something I very rarely remember to do.  I circled back.

And so...I give you...my Recap of RecapThat, a great video reflection resource that almost went forgotten in my bookmarks.  

RecapThat in Action

Image used with permission from RecapThat

RecapThat is a video reflection curation tool.  As an educator, I set up an account and class on the web version of RecapThat.  Kids are able to join the class by email address or class code.  (I chose to use the class code - so easy).   Recap lets you record and/or write a prompt question(s) to "assign" to the learners. When ready to use in class, learners access the prompts assigned to them through the RecapThat App and record video reflections that are submitted back to the educator account. 

One secret of being a DLC - it is not as much fun to test things by yourself.  So I launched a "Pryor Takeover" of my friend, Delaney Allison's class. The 3rd graders were engaged and thoughtful as they wrote a quick post it note plan of what their 30 second video would say. They joined the class using our class code, listened to my video instruction of the prompt and were OFF to record their own!

Planning is key!
As learners submitted their responses, I could monitor their submissions through the web version in my educator account.  This was helpful for pacing the lesson and to monitor the quality of what they sent.  If needed, Ms. Allison and I would have been able to leave them comments on their submissions too!
Engaged 3rd graders = success!

The Verdict

First of all, anything that lets our learners pause to reflect and is simple enough for K-5 kids to use gets a star in my book.  That being said, here are my top 3 things I enjoyed about this experience:

  • It was easy for the learners to do independently after a quick mini - lesson from me and their "Jr." teacher, Luke.  We used Reflector (Apple TV would work too) and showed his work through the process for 5 minutes before asking the kids to work on their own contributions.

Some data from the "Pryor Takeover"
  • At the end of each video submission, learners are asked to do a quick formative self check for understanding.  They tap a thumbs up, a thumb held horizontally or one that is thumbs down to indicate if they "get it" or not.  This data can be so helpful in plotting the next steps of an experience or unit.

  • Not only can you as the educator view all of the videos submitted by your class, but RecapThat compiles a Daily Review Reel for each assignment.  This showcase video randomly pulls several videos that have been submitted and can be shared with the class, parents or via social media.

RecapThat would be great for quick end of the day or lesson reflections, as a way for learners to verbally process their learning or as a tool for gathering reflection through a CBL unit.  

How could you see using RecapThat to give your learners more of a voice in the classroom?  Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

TMST: Little Kids Can

To those who know me and my obsession with puppets, this post will come as no surprise. After all, a Kindergarten teacher turned Digital Learning Coach has a huge soapbox to stand on.  Why?  

Because little kids can.

We've come a long way from sand tables and letter of the week. Why?

Because little kids can.

Our learners now have a world at their fingertips and have never known a world with no internet. They are not afraid to click and tap and explore.  Why?

Because little kids can.

Last week, I focused my learning on exploring a range of apps by Duck Duck Moose, the makers of Chatterpix Kids. They produce a bunch of easy to use apps that are FREE.  One I loved in particular is the Draw and Tell app, which lets our kids illustrate, write and record stories that can have multiple scenes.  

I couldn't just learn on my own...so I asked some 1st graders to help.  Why not?  They took
about 10 minutes with me to learn the basics of the app and some expectations for the
lesson on the iPad using Reflector (Apple TV would work just as well) and then split up to create some masterpieces in pairs.

After only a few minutes, we had recorded age appropriate facts about bats and owls were ready to share to photos and then to their SeeSaw portfolios.  THAT SIMPLE.

This awesome experience happened because little kids CAN.

But hear me when I say this...just because little kids can, doesn't mean that they should. Our kids need to be exposed to learning that is age appropriate - in both digital and analog formats. That's what I love about Draw and Tell, but remember, it really isn't just about an app. We need to be purposeful about what we share and the experiences that we design. Our kids have so much more thinking potential in them than just an app or a game or a pencil or a card sort.

They need to experience and talk and write and think and do just as much as they need to be engaged and excited.  They need us.  To guide them and learn with them.  To take risks and dream with them. 

Because if we believe in little kids and their abilities to learn, then little kids will.

And truthfully, the same is true if you substitute the word "we"  and "us" in place of "little kids" and "they".

Because we can.  And if we keep an open mindset, then we will.

I'd love to hear about a time when YOUR learners (or you) proved that "little kids can", even if they (or you) aren't so little!  Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

TMST - Writer's Block

A blank page with a dark blinking cursor sits mocking me tonight.  

The truth is, I wrote a whole post already and stocked it in my drafts for another time, another day.  It is a reflective post and I will publish it soon.  But today is Teach Me Something Tuesday and my brain is flooded with other ideas...which one to pick? 

The cursor blinks...

It's also true that even a blogger gets writer's block. Blogger's block, if you will.  It reminds me of why we should all say thanks for the special individuals that teach 4th grade writing. EEK.

Image created at imageflip.com
So in lieu of amazing written insight tonight, I give you 3 digital strategies that could help when your learners (or you) have writer's block.

Writer's Block Remedy #1: Map it out.
Sometimes thinking needs to be visible before it is coherent.  Why not draw or map out ideas using Popplet or Ideament app?  Learners who thrive when working together could use the meeting component of the Baiboard app to sketch ideas in real time with a partner. Pencil and paper can even be shared and documented digitally with a quick snap of a picture and upload.

Writer's Block Remedy #2: Talk it out.
Use a recording app or tool to talk through your ideas.  Sometimes verbal processing can unlock an idea you never knew you had.   A simple one to use would be the Voice Record Pro app.  Simply start recording, talk it out and then play it back.  One of my favorites of these is the embedded tool "Voice Typing" in Google Docs. Simply go to the tools menu in a doc and select it, allow your microphone, press the mic icon and it types what you say!  We've had 1st graders do some amazing work by talking it through and then editing the words that are typed. 

Writer's Block Remedy #3:  Try a different format.
Who said all writing has to be a long paper?  Expose your learners to some new formats for writing digitally.  You might be shocked at what they can come up with!  

  • Create a comic or graphic novel with one of these awesome tools.
  • Use the Write about This app to access picture prompts, type and record audio thoughts.
  • Create digital stories that are animated with the Draw and Tell App
  • Expose your learners to reflection through a daily blogpost!  Blogging is a great way to get in the habit of writing! Connect posts to passions and the sky is the limit!
  • Allow your learners to grow as authors by publishing stories via Book Creator or iBooks Author.  An authentic audience can be very motivating...

Speaking of authentic audiences, thanks for reading!  What are YOUR writer's block remedies?  How do you promote writing in your class?


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